Commentary

College Soccer (Part 3): A Dreamland where only radical change can ensure a place in soccer's pyramid

So here comes the difficult bit. Trying to make a coherent whole of my dealings with and memories of college soccer since 1960. It’s not easy because there really isn’t anything coherent about men’s college soccer. Not easy? I suspect it’s impossible. But let’s see ...

I first experienced it as an almost comical imitation of the sport. I look at it today -- 60 years later -- and, though I no longer find it funny, I still see it as something odd, something that doesn’t quite fit into the sport’s structure, a sport searching for a role.

For sure, there’s one very obvious oddity. Here is a major soccer operation, involving thousands of young players, that is not under the control of soccer people. It is run by the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which has the task of running a whole range of college sports.

The sports that really matter to the NCAA are basketball and football -- the two revenue-producing sports. Soccer is just one among all the others. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any convincing proof that the NCAA is anti-soccer. Its attitude is really one of indifference to the sport’s special needs.

The extent to which college soccer exists as an obedient servant of the NCAA was impressed indelibly into my mind at one of the coaches conventions in the 1970s. I sat in on the annual meeting to which the NCAA sent a representative to update the Division 1 coaches on any new decisions affecting their sport.

A room full of male coaches, the older guys with a lot of experience, and some pretty argumentative types (I know, I’d interviewed them). In came the NCAA rep, a pert young woman about half the age of the experienced coaches. She told them the good news. They were now allowed to print their recruiting materials in four colors.

Subdued, obedient silence. No one leapt up yelling “Are you kidding?” Nothing like that. This was a group of hardened coaches being handed a very skimpy bone. They took it without protest. Where they might have expected news on their attempts to get some more games, a longer season, a ruling allowing them to apply FIFA rules, they got instead four-color fliers.

That pathetic incident says it all. Soccer has no clout in the NCAA, its requirements will not be treated with any sense of importance or urgency.

Nothing as fragile as a glass ceiling stands in the way of soccer getting what it seeks -- it’s more of a solid brick wall. Invisible of course, and also impassable. It has easily repelled the efforts of strong-minded coaches like Steve Negoesco, Joe Morrone, Jerry Yeagley, John Rennie, and Ray Reid to emphasize the importance of soccer. Currently, it is Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski who has taken up college soccer’s cause. I wish him well, but he has an unenviable task.

Anyway, not all of college soccer’s failings can be laid at the NCAA’s doorstep. The sport has had constant problems presenting a united stand, with the coaches of the various divisions putting forth motions for changes that would benefit only their division and would not be welcomed by the other divisions.

Even within Division 1 there has been bitter argument. In 1980, the NCAA passed a resolution limiting the soccer season to 22 games -- at a time when the major Division 1 programs were seeking more games. And the shocking truth was that this motion had been proffered by the Ivy League schools in response to requests by their own soccer coaches.

Brown coach Cliff Stevenson, who was seen as the architect of this betrayal, stuck to his guns. He told me: “My players have to get an education. If you play too many games in a short period, you’re taking the kids out of class too much.” UConn’s Joe Morrone had another view: “Hey, in 1974 Brown beat Boston University 18-1. But in the last two years Brown has lost to B.U. because Boston is recruiting and upgrading their program. Brown is falling behind.”

But Stevenson, I had to admit, had the decisive argument. He repeated something he had told me nearly 10 years earlier: “Nobody ever told me my job was to develop players for the pros.” How does one answer that?

Which takes precedence -- the education or the soccer? Equally important? That is clearly not a practical solution. To be played anywhere near top level, soccer is a sport that demands a lot of time, plenty of games and practice -- tiring physical effort. Such a regimen is bound to interfere with a serious study schedule.

There has been very little straightforward speaking on this problem. The clearest words came in 1996 from Alan Rothenberg, then President of the U.S. Soccer Federation, when MLS announced its Project-40 program of special training (definitely not including college soccer) for outstanding young players. Said Rothenberg: “As long as the NCAA has in place the incredibly restrictive practices that it does, we cannot look to college soccer to produce top-class talent.” He also categorically ruled out any chance of the NCAA adopting a more understanding attitude: “I see no movement whatever on the NCAA’s part.”

Among other factors making college soccer a poor training ground for soccer talent are these: a short season, failure to abide by FIFA’s internationally accepted rules, and the fact that it is, in effect, an extension of the age-bracket system of youth soccer -- meaning that the college soccer player never plays alongside or against older and wiser players and, of course, never with or against professionals.

There are huge disadvantages involved here. A college player graduates at age 22 with no experience of the adult game at all. His contemporaries all over the world, most of them already pros themselves, will have been playing in professional leagues for four years or longer.

A less measurable -- but to my mind more damning -- indictment of the college game is its extraordinary insularity. This particular defect cannot be blamed on the NCAA. This is something college soccer has wished upon itself. When I first saw college soccer in 1960 it was an overly physical, hectic, thud-and-blunder type game, with an emphasis on hustle at the expense of skill and artistry.

It is a more sophisticated game now, but a firm underpinning of hectic pace and the hustle is still there. The subtlety and the artistry are still in short supply, simply squeezed out by what looks suspiciously like the machismo of a rollicking robust game?

The pattern for a more skillful game is to be found, of course, in futbol, the Latino style of soccer. But searching for a Latin influence in college soccer renders slim pickings. A few Latino players (mostly American born), a handful of Latino coaches. But no team devoted to playing a Latin style of soccer.

Starting in 1967, I have attended nearly all the annual Coaches Conventions. They mirror college soccer’s aversion to futbol -- it is rarely to be found. Clinics, lectures, demonstrations featuring European coaches are ten-a-penny in the convention. The Scots (who’ve never won anything) and the English (who’ve won a single World Cup, over 50 years ago) are always well represented. But Brazil and Argentina (seven World Cups between them)? Near neighbors Mexico (with an excellent record in FIFA youth tournaments)? Usually absent.

Year after year the convention has presented a menu of arid lectures and discussions, accompanied by clinics featuring fatuous schemes and systems of play that look good in the controlled, theoretical confines of the demonstration hall ... but are unlikely to be of value in the real game.

For those wanting to embrace the full range of soccer, its uplifting beauty as well as its exciting physicality, the convention has always been a deplorable wasteland.

I remain baffled by the way college soccer, and the convention, have managed, for over 60 years, to remain deliberately ignorant of futbol. I’ve just taken a look at the rosters of the teams that played in the 2019 College Final Four: Stanford, Georgetown, Virginia and Wake Forest. A total of 111 players … with only two recognizably Latino names.

I’m sorry, guys, but there is absolutely no excuse for this. Fielding a basically Latino team, playing futbol, can be done in college soccer. Arnie Ramirez did it successfully for 20 years at Long Island University in Brooklyn, from 1979-1998.

He brought in just enough skilled players from Latin America to give his team its Latin flavor; the other players came from Europe, from the Caribbean, or they were Americans. But they all had to be real players. Being a good athlete was not good enough, they had to have a genuine feel for the skills, tricks and subtleties of futbol.

I attended a lot of those LIU games, because the team had the enormous attraction of not playing like a typical college team. There was always good soccer to be enjoyed at LIU games.

So who copied what Ramirez was doing? No one that I’m aware of. Elsewhere, all round the USA, college coaches continued to be satisfied with banalities and platitudes and continued to recruit hustling athletes.

What makes this shameful tale even worse is that college soccer, by opening up to a Latino influence could turn itself into a much more attractive attacking, goalscoring game.

In the 2015 Division 1 final, Stanford beat Clemson 4-0. But that was an aberrant scoreline. A look at the scorelines of the other 20 finals of the 21st century gives a much truer picture of college soccer: eight of the games ended 1-0; three of them, at 0-0, had no goals at all. Eleven games (over 50% of the finals) with an average of 0.7 goals each.

Those figures hide a dire truth, that Division 1 soccer, far from improving, has been getting steadily stodgier. In its first 20 years, between 1959 and 1978, the Division 1 College Cup final game featured 71 goals ... 3.5 goals a game.

One need not pause to wonder why the Division 1 final, played on neutral ground, regularly fails to attract any fans.

Are there no voices within college soccer to tell the world, but above all to tell themselves, that this is not good enough? That their version of soccer is a consistent bore?

It comes down to this. Is there a place within American soccer for a well-organized national youth network (up to age 22, if you please) that has given abundant evidence over the past 50 years that it does not overly care about the quality of the game that it puts on the field? That seems to be quite satisfied to go on turning out just plain ordinary players?

The answer to that is obviously No. What organization, in any activity, anywhere, would accept the inferiority that such a farce must entail?

I hate the idea of college soccer withering away. There must be a place for it in the overall U.S. picture. A place that acknowledges the importance of getting a good college education, but also serves the sport of soccer by ensuring a soccer education that improves their performance.

But I cannot see the sport even beginning to become relevant until it radically reorganizes its own house. That means paying attention to the soccer it plays, taking measures to encourage a much livelier, goalscoring game, that welcomes creativity and originality, that abjures the game-killing rigidities of defensive formations.

A massive first step in that direction would be to embrace futbol, to start seriously recruiting Latino players. And coaches. A move that would also have the healthy benefit of defending college soccer from accusations of discrimination against Latinos -- and how can such accusations not surface in the face of what looks almost like a 60-year ban on Latino players?

College soccer can no longer claim importance as a farm system for pro players. No one of any knowledge or importance still believes that. Perhaps the college coaches themselves do. If so, it is but a measure of what I have already pointed out: that college coaches have lost touch with reality over the past decades.

College soccer can survive, should survive, as a widely played example of the sport at its lively best (it is far from that at the moment), a nationwide point of contact for Americans (and that must include the so-far excluded Latinos) that boosts soccer’s popularity and acceptance within mainstream American life.

What Alan Rothenberg said in 1996 about the NCAA’s lack of interest in soccer was 100% true: “I see no movement whatever on the NCAA’s part.” Unfortunately, the same criticism can be leveled at college soccer itself: virtually no movement whatever. For 50 years, inertia has ruled college soccer.

It defies explanation. From this group of several thousand young players, college students, which one would expect to be at the forefront of promoting and popularizing soccer, the game has received nothing. It is worse than that. College soccer has proved itself a burden for the sport. Far from providing a key step in the development of young players, college soccer offers four years that inhibit their growth.

I do not see how there can any longer be doubts. College soccer -- those thousands of bright youngsters, those promising players -- has turned into a solid, inert obstacle to progress.

I believe that most soccer people know that. They may not wish to admit it, but deep down they know that college soccer is a very dull affair that is damaging the sport it should be enriching.

College soccer people themselves act as though unaware of that reality. They live a shaky not-quite existence, caught between the lure of being a breeding-ground for pros, and the perhaps less exciting attraction of providing a sound academic education. A sort of dreamland existence.

Any equivocation over those different aims should long ago have been settled. The colleges cannot produce pro players. Which means that what is in doubt now is exactly what role the colleges can play in American soccer.

I think I’ve made it clear enough that I do not think that college soccer, as currently operating, has any role to play. A conclusion that I adopt reluctantly. But let us listen to Sasho Cirovski, who I have mentioned several times as the man who is now making the case for college soccer.

This is how Cirovski sees things: “I would love nothing more than to have U.S. Soccer officially recognize the importance of college soccer . . . [to understand] the pivotal role that college soccer plays in the fabric of the American soccer landscape ...”

What on earth is the man talking about? Pivotal? We are back in dreamland. Cirovski outlines a future for college soccer. But he is dreaming. It is a nice dream -- but it should not be a dream. It should be reality. Cirovski is talking about the potential of college soccer.

But that potential has been lying dormant for 50 years. That it is still only a dream is a reliable measure of college soccer’s inertia. Dreams that have been lying around, unrealized, for 50 years are nothing more than pipe dreams.

Yes, college soccer should be important to the sport, maybe it should even be “pivotal,” but it will never be that as long as it continues to be a turgid, defense-oriented version of the sport. A version that college coaches appear to have gladly adopted as their sport.

I’m forced to the conclusion that college soccer is its own worst enemy. It fails to recognize its own weaknesses, even its own strengths. Right now, college soccer seems rather fond of importing large-size Scandinavian players. But not many smaller Latinos. As long as that absurd -- and rather unpleasant -- bias continues, college soccer can forget about being pivotal to any aspect of the sport.

Is there hope? Well, in condemning the goalscoring drought in the abysmally dull recent college finals, I omitted -- deliberately -- to mention the scoreline of the most recent 2019 edition. It was 3-3. Six goals! You have to go back nearly 40 years to find more goalscoring than that (1980: USF 4 Indiana 3).

So maybe a new spirit is abroad in the college game? I wish ... but I doubt. Because my 50-year experience is that college soccer specializes in false dawns. There always seems to be a reason to trust the sport to get things right. And it never does. Nothing changes. How utterly sad.


Part 1: Sixty years of trying to assess men's college soccer

Part 2: Men's College Soccer: 1972 to 2020, the years of the draft ... and inertia

17 comments about "College Soccer (Part 3): A Dreamland where only radical change can ensure a place in soccer's pyramid".
  1. Wallace Wade, May 20, 2020 at 1:34 p.m.

    Pyramid? What Pyramid?

  2. Peter Bechtold replied, May 20, 2020 at 2:05 p.m.

    Sports pyramid: A common phrase in US denoting Professional>College>H.S.>Youth organizations. 

  3. Peter Bechtold, May 20, 2020 at 2:29 p.m.

    PG: Thanks for your 3 essays; I read them all very carefully and enjoyed some memories.( I actually seem to have beat you by a few years). I played college ball on the West Coast and club soccer in an Ivy League Graduate School. The contrast in sports philosophy was instructive. The Ivies win their share of NCAA championships but usually in the "non-revenue sports". They recognize that universities were established for education--what a concept!--not for entertaining alumni. They accept the old Latin formula with which I also grew up:"Mens sana in corpore sano". Many, not all, public colleges see themselves as extensions of HSs and often community colleges. They are not serious about preparing athletes for professional careers except in the "revenue sports" which you rightly cite; they do this by admitting young men who mostly do not qualify as students by their own standards.(Special admissions).

    The real problems with HS and College soccer are structural: Very short seasons> overloading schedules to twice per week>rotatating rosters due to Fr,So,Jr,Sr eligibility>"frenzy ball".

    You are correct to be dismayed over the absence,mostly, of Latino players unless you go to certain Community colleges in certain parts of the country.
    ( For shock value, if it is needed, can you or any reader imagine Wayne Rooney, Pele, Mbappe, Maradona, Beckenbauer(8th.grade ed. in his biography) fitting into a "college" ?)

  4. Paul Stewart, May 20, 2020 at 2:35 p.m.

    Paul, excellent series, thanks. You omitted one issue that may allow for some optimism. Colleges have generally expected their coaches to have a college degree, which has excluded a lot of excellent foreign coaches. That left a group of mostly Americans who grew up in the underdeveloped US soccer world. Many good youth players took a big step backwards in coaching when they moved from their youth club to college. That is starting to change with the new generation of college coaches who have developed at a time when US soccer was more established, at least at the youth level.  


     


     

  5. Christopher Osmond, May 20, 2020 at 3:08 p.m.

    Paul,

    Thanks.  You want to take the hustle/bustle out of the game, go to FIFA rules, period.  Of course, some coaches will complain in that they cannot play more players, but this is disingenious:  These coaches want to win first and foremost in order to maintain their jobs.  

    But here's a novel idea, play one 1/2 or 60 minute game with those "B" players that will not be playing in the scheduled game.  This will help develop these players and provide player morale as these student atheletes do just want to play--not necessarily make the pros.  

    Now, cost of referees will be brought up (really not that expensive) and time (don't see this as an issue or play on another field same time w/an assistant coaching) as impediments, but I personally don't see it.

    It is fascinating, though, how little the college soccer scene has changed.

    Thanks again for an enjoyable article(s).

    Chris

  6. Charles Teeple, May 20, 2020 at 3:37 p.m.

    So, Long Island University in Brooklyn played soccer from 1979 to 1998 that entertained Paul Gardner.  How many national championships did those teams win?  None that I remember.  Could this be the reason their style was not widely copied?

    Winning soccer can be entertaing to me, espoecially when it is Indiana with eight national championships.

    Charles Teeple

  7. Arnold Ramirez replied, May 20, 2020 at 8:37 p.m.

    Charles, the players that I coached were very technical players. Many went on to play professionally.  You mentioned that we never won any NCAA tournaments during my years at LIU . You are correct,  it must be that I am not a very good coach for not winning any championships but I was very happy the way our teams played the game. 

  8. frank schoon, May 20, 2020 at 4:18 p.m.

    "Nobody ever told me my job was to develop players for the pros", EXACTLY!! That's not what you are therefore, unless the MLS is paying you an additional salary as well!!!....You, as a coach, chose to work with STUDENT athletes in a college environment. These students came to college not to learn the profession of playing soccer but to learn another profession and if they can play a sport while in college and able to pay for their tuition, more power to them. And therefore the question 'which takes precedence, the education or the soccer' is a mood point, to say the least.

    Don't hang the questionable quality of college soccer as an indictment of the college game. Paul , if you want to criticize then stay with the pro-game, watch the MLS, or the USMNT where supposedly you see 'real' soccer players .  Yeah, really, 'real soccer' players who play at a professional level where in the past 2 years a 38 year old European 'has-been' can still play using a 'walker' and still outscore, out assist any of the younger MLS players. And your telling me the college game is hurting ,why don't you just criticize high school and on down....

    Having played college soccer myself, I'm not a fan of the quality and therefore I agree wholeheartedly on everything you have stated as far as the college game.

     But going  into the direction of entertaining more Latino players in college soccer is the answer , I total disagree with that. To hang one's hat on bringing a latino flavor by simply more latino players in the college mix is too simplistic. That's like saying we are lousy in  our 'heading game' so let us ,therefore  recruit more English players.   NEXT POST

  9. Ric Fonseca, May 20, 2020 at 4:23 p.m.

    An article that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and PG's assessment the NCAA!!! Went to grad school (UCLA) It was during this time when I really got my futbol feet back on une to the NCAA and it's short-sighted view of our sport, but imagine the reaction to the student athletes especially those from Africa, England, Europe, and Asia? I've mentioned some incidents that are ruled engendered by the NCAA, and their very "fanatic " attitude against futbol; imagine the millions of dollars paid to football/basketball coaches - all at the expense of the student athletesI've commented time and again, that in addition to seeing intercollegiate athletics administrators fight against futbol, that it is also the NCAA and it's antiquated and at times polyanish approach to futbol. Suffice to say that to many former coaches, players, and officials see the NCAA as a complete road block for the improvement and adoption of FIFA LOTG of our sport. As far as Latino players are concerned and the NCAA, the concept of "special admissions" is still very strong, though the NCAA wants to see colleges and universities that play under their rules, must ensure that the players are admitted for the purpose of completing a university education- which I agree - however, where does the problem lie in the dearth of Latino college/university (read NCAA) players?IMHO, it lies on the coaches themselves , the so called college showcases Bluntly stated, NCAA coaches - in many occasions, do not really recruit widely in the Latino communities, leaving the community college coaches to recruit in their "spheres of influence." The various NCAA rules and regulations, read SAT's or ACT's, gpa, financial need or intercollegiate athletic scholarship play a very significant role in whether or Latino player is recruited to a Div I or even II program. I am sorry to say this, but even in my own local sphere of influence, after at least 45 years, I do not see many NCAA college/university coaches actiely recruiting - maybe there is some value to the "Sueno Program" but those players ID'd in that program are usually lured by LIGA MX teams or go to Europe or the country of their parent's birth It'd be interesting to conduct some study to see just how many NCAA DI, II, or even III and NAIS coaches actually make any efforts to recruit Latino players? And now after my almost same length of time PG has been witness to college/university futbol, and it's stagnant developmental stage, very little has changed At one time I even wondered if the advent of Title IX and the expansion of Latina soccer players would help change the NCAA, but I see little progress, though I haveseen an incredible interest in the number of young women Latina and "non Latinas" playing futbol with some even being recruited by Mexico's Liga Femenil de Futbol Lastly, thanks for insightful article PG. and now I am hopefull;y looking forward to your Article Nr. 4.; Saludos, Senor PG

  10. frank schoon, May 20, 2020 at 4:49 p.m.

    Arnold Ramirez recruited or brought in enough Latino players  to give his team a latin flavor. I'd say more power to him. He likes the Latino style of soccer ,why not? I particular don't care either way, I just want to see 'good' soccer, but that doesn't necessary mean 'latino style'. To me good soccer is well thought-out soccer, carried with a purpose and intention through good technical execution. I've seen latin soccer, and it can as brainless as any other style but latin players have a nicer way of handling the ball allowing the fan to enjoy the display regardless it were efficient or not.  Lincoln Philips, likewise recruited for his Howard team team some Caribbean players of which two of them Keith Aqui and Alvin Henderson excited college soccer. That had nothing to do with bringing in Latin talent but good TALENTED players no matter where they come from.

    The problem is the overal development of our players from the beginning to college to pros is LOUSY! Our college players are 18-22, which means the ones who go on to the pros  has played with those in younger divisions thereby learned from the same coaches, the same style and gained the same knowledge. By the time you reach 18 it becomes no longer about skills but more about brains and insight. 

    The reason latino players who come from South America or Europe that come to play college soccer are better than our boys is that they have one thing in common- PICKUP SOCCER, which our players don't have for there is no culture for it. The foreign players are better 'footballers'. You compare our latino players here to those from South America says enough.  And our non-latino players are brought along in their development in a 'cookie-cutter' fashion, by programmed training by coaches with all the latest theories and dogmas,and who likewise are programmed through the licensing system and they all likewise go to every Coaches Convention  with baited breath,pen and paper in hand trying to find the elixir of soccer...

    NEXT POST


  11. frank schoon, May 20, 2020 at 5:06 p.m.

    The criticism that college soccer is defensive is true and that is because the coaches lack a good technical backround, for one thing. Another many or most of them see defense as easier to teach as due to their own deficiencies. Many players who are defenders or types, become coaches. They are organizers by nature and therefore coaching fits right in. 

    Scoring seems to be a big problem at all levels of play from youth on to pros. We don't have create individualists on the ball, ball handlers, tricky players ,all we have our programmed stiffs. We have a problem in our player development from top to bottom. The problem  is the type of coaches we have for our youth and up and the lack of PICKUP soccer.

    What I would like to see is coaches who were great or former attackers or those who are offensive minded to coach college soccer. Bring in former greats and ask if they would like to coach. Forget about stupid licenses, for the players 18 and older need to be taught more of the higher levels or insights, the stuff a former player WHO HAS PLAYED AT A HIGH LEVEL can teach...

    I would fire a college coach who depends upon 'counterattacking soccer' hoping for a breakaway to soccer as his style of soccer. We need to bring about a BIG EFFORT to think offensive soccer and that begins from the top. 

  12. R2 Dad, May 20, 2020 at 9:47 p.m.

    Very thorough review of the history and status of the college game--thank you PG. More of a dismayed sigh, though, than the grenade the NCAA needs. Further proof we live in a multiverse: NCAA soccer could be called MLS.

  13. William Clayton, May 21, 2020 at 11:47 a.m.

    Thanks for taking the time and for caring about College Soccer!  Amazing to read about the old days.

    The fact is, College Soccer remains an important part of American Soccer, whether it is helping or hurting. 

    -Around 1,300 College Soccer Programs (NCAA, NAIA, JuCo) with incredible marketing power to grow the visibility of the sport.
    -Thousands of youth players still encouraged to play soccer with hopes to play in college.
    -23 of 24 MLS Rookies of the year played College Soccer 
    -Ike Opara earned the 2019 MLS Defender of the Year (Wake Forest University)

    Also, as you mention above, there is potential for college soccer to improve tremendously.  I encourage anyone who does not see College Soccer as a positive influence on American Soccer to help make it better instead of quit on it.

    Sasho Cirovski, Carlos Somoano, Jeremy Gunn, and 90% of Division I Coaches support the 21st Century Model proposal (https://www.21stcenturymodel.org/).  They may be "dreaming", but the dream is closer than ever to becoming realized, and College Soccer, as well as American Soccer, has a lot to gain from it.  The ACC and BIG10 have co-sponsored legislation with the support of the PAC12.  The new structure addresses many of the concerns you raised in your article...

    Style of Play Concerns and FIFA Rules: 
    -In a decompressed schedule, the substitution rule can change, and defensive tactics will not be so heavily rewarded. Currently, the sub rule cannot be changed, because with so many games in a short period, players' minutes in those games must be limited to prevent injuries.
    -Decompressed schedule allows meaningful training and allows coaches time to implement tactics over the course of the year.

    Academic Impact: 
    -Reduces missed classes with fewer midweek games

    Health and Wellness:
    -Reduces risk of injury
    -Balanced schedule = balanced lifestyle fall and spring

    Championship Experience and Community Outreach:
    -Playoffs in May/June vs November/December:  Better conditions, better visibility, better fan experience
    -Consistent games throughout year allows more community engagement opportunities.  
    -Can schedule games around youth tournaments, can participate in community service throughout the year, etc.

  14. humble 1, May 22, 2020 at 12:36 p.m.

    College soccer, ladies and mens still matters to a lot of players and families.  From the ex-soccer NCAA perspective, they proabably look at all the success women, most of whom go to college enroute to winning their olympic and world cup medals, and they ask, what is the problem here?  If you accept this argument then you must accept also that it points clearly to the pro side as the problem for the men, as those same girls came up through girls youth programs.  And that is where I am.  The pro-side is very very weak.  The MLS system is not really clubs, but franchises.  Clubs like Dallas FC and Real Salt Lake, with deep community ties, are the exception, not the rule.  MLS has a lot of retoric around the youth game, but the numbers of US players on the pitch tell the real story.  It may be the case that college soccer has not evolved, on the men's side, but they never claimed, like many comment echo, to be anything other than an amatuer league to supplement a boys higher ed pursuits.  Still, if there is a blame game, for me, winner and champion, hands down, has to be USSF.  With over 100M in the bank for many many years, with the DA master plan from 2007 for boys, then girls in 2017 and to have completely pulled the plug.  Who could have imagined?  Better days are ahead, but the growth will come from grass roots passion for the sport from ordinary people, as organizations at the top levels of the sport are not up to the task. Thank you.

  15. Philip Carragher, May 22, 2020 at 1:33 p.m.

    College soccer can be a fantastic experience for a student/athlete. My son played four years at the D1 and D3 level and his D3 experience was really good and has had lasting, helpful effects. Fortunately, he escaped from a D1 coach that played him on a fractured foot for 14 days and ended up at a high-academic school and on a team that made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAAs. In the business world, he plays on his company's soccer team and is a standout, and they compete against other companies that do the kind of work he loves. What a fun way to network. College soccer can be a very healthy way to get an education while playing the sport you love, but for a U.S.-bred player to expect college soccer to be a pathway to the pros is a setup for disappointment.

  16. Philip Carragher, May 22, 2020 at 1:42 p.m.

    Paul Gardner, great series. The best I've seen in SA.

  17. Gabriel Chapman, May 26, 2020 at 12:35 p.m.

    Paul, this was a great series. To (maybe) give you a little bit of hope, check out our current roster. We have been playing an attacking brand of soccer for quite a while - albeit at the DIII level - and have our Latino player base gets larger every year: https://www.gopetrels.com/sports/msoc/2019-20/roster

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